Whatever your approach to workplace wellness is, you'll achieve more meaningful outcomes if you translate your approach into action through an annual wellness operating plan. Crafting this plan focuses your wellness team on answering the big question: How exactly does our wellness program benefit our employees and our organization?
For your plan to communicate and legitimize your wellness program to employees - and especially to executive decision makers - you must follow a thorough, collaborative, transparent process.
Transparency may be the most important quality of a good wellness operating plan. It invigorates every phase of the plan: building it, running it, evaluating its success, and improving the next iteration.
Transparency in the plan building phase: inclusiveness creates buy-in, alignment
According to the Wellness Councils of America, an effective wellness operating plan has seven elements:
- A vision/mission statement incorporating the organization's core philosophies.
- Goals and measurable objectives linked to the organization's strategic priorities.
- Implementation timelines.
- Roles and responsibilities.
- A sufficient, itemized budget.
- Marketing strategies.
- Evaluation procedures.
Building or updating these seven elements shouldn't be done in a couple of all-day sessions by a couple of people. Make it a transparent process. For each element, involve the key players who have the knowledge, authority, and motivation to help your program succeed.
Involving the appropriate stakeholders and decision makers not only gives you a more accurate document, it secures their buy-in and cooperation up front. Learn first-hand what these key players need from a wellness program. This helps you align your operating plan with your employer's goals and objectives.
Doesn't sound like a two-day process, does it?
The process can and should take weeks or months - not full-time, but in smaller blocks of time as you bring together the right people and get their input, reactions, and sign-offs on drafts.
Don't let the size of this challenge scare you away. Just start. And remember: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
Transparency in the plan execution phase: Improves awareness, participation
Your operating plan's goals and objectives should drive your day-to-day progress and help you maintain momentum. Essentially, it's your playbook for executing your wellness program. Don't keep the document to yourself, however. Make it available to all employees. Anyone who's interested should be able to see what you're doing, why, and how success will be measured.
When you inform employees about available wellness services and upcoming events, share the purpose, goals, and objectives detailed in your operating plan for these services/events.
A thorough plan provides continuity if your wellness team changes, especially during the execution phase. Without a well-documented plan, much hard work can be lost during staff turnover. With a solid plan in place, however, a new employee can see the comprehensive picture of your program immediately, and step right in.
Transparency in the evaluation phase: Lays the groundwork for improving the next plan
Everything you choose to evaluate about your wellness program - participation, satisfaction, annual health risk assessments and biometric screening results, attitude and behavior changes, etc. - should be linked directly to the goals and objectives of your operating plan and your organization.
A transparent evaluation includes more than charts. It's also more than a blow-by-blow of the measurable objectives you reached and those you didn't. Your evaluation should include a candid assessment of what worked and what fell short. Again, include the perspective of the key players: executive decision makers, HR and benefits professionals, wellness practitioners, participants, etc.
This phase lays the groundwork for the next year's plan, so make sure you'll be starting from a foundation of accurate, thorough, and honest information.
Wellness operating plans work best in the open
If your wellness program is properly designed, funded, and aligned with your employees' and organization's best interests, there's no reason for secrets.
Creating and running a wellness operating plan in clear view isn't easy, of course. Transparency makes you accountable. But it also reveals the true value of a wellness program and those responsible for it.